FRESNO (KCBS) – Facing a fourth year of an historic drought, farmers in the Central Valley are having to improvise on the fly when it comes to the amount of water they use.
David “Mas” Masumoto and his family own and run the Masumoto Family Farm south of Fresno. The farm’s peaches and nectarines are hugely popular along the West Coast and they ship directly to Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley and Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco.
With the drought taking its toll on all farmers, Mas’ daughter Nikiko said they have had to come up with different ideas on their 80-acre organic farm.
“With some of our stone fruit varieties, we’ve actually been realizing that we’ve possibly been overwatering them, trying to chase large size fruit because that’s what’s rewarded most often in the marketplace,” Masumoto said. “So instead of letting economics dictate what we do on the farm, we’re trying to reverse that and really pay attention to what’s happening in the environment and figure out a way that we might be able to grow better tasting fruit by using less water. Thus, the fruit are smaller and have a more concentrated flavor.”
Nikiko said they have received zero surface water allocations in 2014 and 2015, meaning they are receiving no water from the Sierra snowmelt. “So we’ve had to pump all of our water from our groundwater through our wells. We knew going into this year we were going to have the same predicament as last year so we planned to water certain areas of different fields in each variety less, about 20-25 percent less,” she said.
Masumoto said in tests, the peaches so far are smaller in size, but also have a slight elevation in sugar levels. And the taste?
“It’s like biting into something that bites back. One of our varieties, the Gold Dust peach, was like a tiny peach with a mini flavor explosion,” Nikiko said. “We certainly love them on the farm but we’ve had a little bit of a challenge in the marketplace.”
Nikiko said that has brought up an interesting question about exactly what people are looking for when they purchase fruit at the market. She said the farm is hoping to start a “small fruit revolution,” letting consumers know that the size of fruit does not necessarily equate to better flavor.
Along with being available at Bi-Rite and Berkeley Bowl, the farm’s produce is also shipped to a number of Whole Foods locations in the Bay Area.